Playing our part at COP26

The rear garden under flood water in autumn at Shugborough Estate, Staffordshire

After governments from around the world met at COP26 in Glasgow to discuss the global fight against climate change, we reflect on what their agreements mean for nature and heritage.

We're joining the debate about what needs to happen next and campaigning for further changes to protect the environment.

Find out more about our role at COP26 and how you can do your bit to help tackle the climate crisis.

What was COP26?  

COP26, which took place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021, was the UN's 26th annual climate summit and meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP). It brought together politicians, leaders, and organisations from across the world to discuss accelerating climate action, and several senior representatives from the National Trust attended to participate in the summit and observe the negotiations.

COP26 Blue Zone
COP26 Blue Zone
COP26 Blue Zone

Why did COP26 matter to the National Trust? 

  • Our own research (for example on mapping climate hazards) underlines that climate change poses one of the biggest threats to the places that we care for.  

  • We're at the forefront of practical action on climate change, embedding this into our approach to conservation and management.

  • COP26 in the UK represented an opportunity for us to build partnerships, share our experience and expertise, and advocate for a climate agreement which helps minimise the impact of climate change for nature, heritage, people and places. 

What happened at COP26?

COP26 was critically important. It was an opportunity for nations that signed up to the Paris Agreement to present their plans to cut carbon emissions as part of efforts to limit global warming to below 2C (ideally 1.5C) compared to pre-industrial levels. 

The Glasgow negotiations achieved some success. They continued to push the global transition towards renewable energy and effectively recognised the role that restoring nature must play in fighting climate change. The final agreement, however, fell significantly short of the critical goal of reducing emissions to a level that keeps increases to average global temperatures within +1.5C.

Key aspects of the Glasgow Climate Pact agreed at COP26 include:

  • If countries meet current pledges to cut carbon emissions, global heating would be limited to 2.4C.
  • Countries will meet again in 2022 to pledge further cuts in a bid to keep temperature rises inside 1.5C. 
  • Countries agreed to reduce the use of coal and phase out subsidies on coal, oil and natural gas. 
  • A pledge to significantly increase financial support to help poorer countries cope with climate change and transition to cleaner energy. 

A number of other significant agreements were made including commitments to cut methane emissions and stop deforestation. 

What needs to happen next?

The UK Government remains the COP president until November 2022, at which point it will pass over to Egypt. During the next 12 months we want to see the Government turn the commitments made at COP26 into action by accelerating domestic policy and lobbying for greater speed and ambition in delivery abroad. 

National Trust Director-General Hilary McGrady in the Peatland Pavilion at COP26
COP26 Director-General Hilary McGrady in the Peatland Pavilion
National Trust Director-General Hilary McGrady in the Peatland Pavilion at COP26

The places the National Trust cares for are at the forefront of the climate emergency. We've already had to make significant changes to how we manage land, source energy, protect wildlife and look after historic buildings and collections. And we'll continue lobbying for robust environmental policies that reduce the threat of the climate and nature crises.

Read the latest news and updates below. 

Latest news

The National Trust at COP26

We attended COP26 to raise awareness of how a changing climate is affecting beaches, countryside sites and places of historical interest. We highlighted the role nature-based solutions can play in tackling the challenges we all face. Not only did we share stories of how we’re adapting houses, collections and land in response to the climate crisis but we also reinforced our commitment to decarbonising historic buildings.

Our Director-General Hilary McGrady and Ben McCarthy, Head of Nature Conservation and Restoration Ecology spoke at COP26 on Wednesday 3 November at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (INCU) Peatland Pavilion. They discussed nature-based solutions and shared examples of successful peatland restoration projects. Our representatives also attended the Decarbonisation Summit to talk about sustainable agriculture and decarbonising the National Trust's investment portfolio.  

 

Image: Rangers and volunteers working on the blanket peat on High Peak Estate in the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire

" We're stepping up, but governments need to do the same. Without policy, resources and clear leadership, we risk losing sites of historical and national significance to the worse effects of climate change."
- Lizzie Carlyle, Head of Environmental Practices, National Trust

Our environmental pledges

  • We're planting and establishing 20 million trees by 2030
  • By 2030 we'll be carbon net-zero across our own emissions and those created by our supply chain and investments
  • By 2025 we'll have created 25,000 hectares of new wildlife habitats
  • We'll create green corridors for people and nature near towns and cities
Join the fight that unites us

Are you looking for ideas on how to take action on the climate crisis? From lobbying politicians to reducing your own individual carbon footprint, there are many different ways to join the fight against climate change.